About Me

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I have discovered that walking a very narrow path leads to broad places of peace, contentment, and provision. I work as a freelance consultant in the areas of cultural heritage, public history and museums, From 2009-2016, I was the executive director of the Bolduc House Museum in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, (now called New France - the OTHER Colonial America, an eighteenth century French colonial historic site and National Historic Landmark.) My PhD research for the University of Leicester (United Kingdom) is in the Department of Museum Studies and looks at the interpretation of diversity at the American Historic House Museum. I also developed and facilitate an inspirational program for Christian grandparents, Gathering Grandparents.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dead Butterfly Wings

My friend, Lisa and her husband, Gavin, were the first readers of Pastor's Ex-Wife. I emailed them a chapter every few days as soon as the first (but not the roughest first) draft was written. They responded with questions, things I needed to clarify, and they shared the emotions the story provoked in them. It made the writing process more real for me to have an audience whose questions often inspired the next chapter as it unfolded.

Oh, yes, I had an outline - really a plan, not an outline. I work best when I have determined certain requirements for each chapter - it had to move the plot forward, it had to include humor, it had to turn around a single unifying metaphor, it had to employ similes and a full range of sensory details....dialogue... an anecdote from my years teaching in an inner city school district, as well as a church building, a pastor, a congregation, a service and sermon.

I mixed and matched the church features like a crazy quilt - everything is based on reality but abstracted like a cubist painting to create a new fictional construct of a church that worked with the story.

I did not realize how important Lisa and Gavin had been to the writing process until last night.

I am working on a new novel (working title "Dead Butterfly Wings"). It is set in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, and is a murder mystery which also treats the theme I dedicate my adult fiction to explore: authentic faith within abusive families.

Lisa and Gavin were my first audience for this first novel - Pastor's Ex-Wife. Lisa shared the background of the protagonist and pastor's ex-wife, Terry Soldan, so her emotional reactions predicted to me whether the story felt real, authentic, plausible....

Until yesterday, I did not have an audience in mind for "Dead Butterfly Wings." Now I do - a person to whom the book just may be dedicated. It won't be the same. I won't be showing him the chapters as they get written but I am writing as if I were telling him the story as it unfolds on the page. I don't even know whether he will ever read it. But, I learned a tremendous thing about how I write just by realizing that I am writing FOR someone specific. It motivates me to put my heart on the page more fully.

Thank you, Lisa and Gavin.

You can read Pastor's Ex-Wife by Lesley Barker on the Kindle. If you don't own a kindle, you can download the kindle ap for free to your computer desktop or smart phone and then you can buy the book in the Amazon Kindle Store here.  

Friday, July 29, 2011

Offered Heart

I was admiring the hand-built ceramics made using Native American techniques and inspiration by the students at our museum yesterday (my day job is to direct the Bolduc House Museum in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri). One bowl was inspired by a Mississippi Mound Builder's sacrificial heart vessel. Its maker explained that the heart would be cut out of a sacrificial victim, placed in the bowl, the victim's corpse kicked away, and the heart lifted to the deity in the bowl.
The idea wounded my spirit.
Then I pondered it some more.
The essence of worship is just that: to offer one's whole heart up to the Lord.
The essence of spiritual abuse such as I portray coming from Pastor Ed towards his ex-wife, Terry Soldan, in the novel, Pastor's Ex-Wife, is to cut out and offer another person's heart up to God.
Terry's problem after she left her abusive pastor husband was to regain and reclaim her own heart. That accomplished, she may someday decide to yield it back without reservation to the Lord - perhaps the next story.....

You can read Pastor's Ex-Wife by Lesley Barker on the Kindle. If you don't own a kindle, you can download the kindle ap for free to your computer desktop or smart phone and then you can buy the book in the Amazon Kindle Store here.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

God is blurry

The biggest loss that Terry Soldan suffered when she left her abusive husband, Pastor Ed, after decades of marriage was the rift her decision created between her and her two adult children. She did not explain the details of her reasoning to them - she did not have the luxury of an opportunity prior to leaving Ed. After she left, like many of the people in the congregation she had helped to lead for so many years, her children took Ed's side without even investigating hers. Ed successfully branded himself as God's man of faith and power who had been dealt a huge injustice by his unrepentant rebellious wife. His ego became inflated by a standard but not careful interpretation of a verse in Malachi that says that God hates divorce. Most people stop there. When you read the verse in its context it sharpens the meaning a lot and divorce appears to be a natural consequence of actions suffered within a marriage especially by a wife. Knowing ahead of time that this would be the message served up week after week from Ed's pulpit against her actions, Terry realized that her choice to walk away would be ever so costly. How much pain did that indicate was her daily marital dose?
Sadly, Terry is a fictional construct of the stories of many women in pain whose decisions cause even more pain - sometimes because of misplaced accusations that come against them; sometimes because of their own desperate but negative actions. Usually God is blurry and His image superimposed on the pain at the point of the deepest crisis. Let God arise for every Terry who needs His wisdom and courage!


You can read Pastor's Ex-Wife by Lesley Barker on the Kindle. If you don't own a kindle, you can download the kindle ap for free to your computer desktop or smart phone and then you can buy the book in the Amazon Kindle Store here.  

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Then with my outside voice I said.....

One very honest friend vented about a difficult person she had dealt with during the day by detailing what she said - "I told her to take her pretty little skinny self and blankety blank blank...."

It surprised me to hear the diatribe because this friend never does or says anything mean or even remotely harsh to or about anyone.

Then she paused...."Then," she continued, "with my outside voice I....." said something much nicer indeed.

I laughed, delighted at the truth she had revealed through this clever device of humor.

We all have inside voices and sometimes they need to speak louder.

For Terry Soldan, the ex-wife of the abusive Pastor Ed, her inside voice was gagged for the entire time she was married to him mostly because she had a warped understanding of how a Christian wife is supposed to behave towards her husband. His power over her snapped and she broke free when that inside voice insisted that the outside voice stop pretending.

That caused the identity crisis that ended up being a crisis of faith and a leap of faith that took a whole lot of courage and caused a whole lot of pain.

Hopefully the readers of Pastor's Ex-Wife will find the humor as refreshing as I found my friend's.

You can read Pastor's Ex-Wife by Lesley Barker on the Kindle. If you don't own a kindle, you can download the kindle ap for free to your computer desktop or smart phone and then you can buy the book in the Amazon Kindle Store here.